Recent evidence shows that carbon emissions in China are likely to peak ahead of 2030. However, the social and economic impacts of such an early carbon peak have rarely been assessed. Here we focus on the economic costs and health benefits of different carbon mitigation pathways, considering both possible socio-economic futures and varying ambitions of climate policies. We find that an early peak before 2030 in line with the 1.5 C target could avoid ~118,000 and ~614,000 PM2.5 attributable deaths under the Shared Socioeconomic Pathway 1, in 2030 and 2050, respectively. Under the 2 C target, carbon mitigation costs could be more than offset by health co-benefits in 2050, bringing a net benefit of $393–$3,017 billion (in 2017 USD value). This study not only provides insight into potential health benefits of an early peak in China, but also suggests that similar benefits may result from more ambitious climate targets in other countries.
China pledges to peak CO2 emissions by 2030 or sooner under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 2 °C or less by the end of the century. By examining CO2 emissions from 50 Chinese cities over the period 2000–2016, we found a close relationship between per capita emissions and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) for individual cities, following the environmental Kuznets curve, despite diverse trajectories for CO2 emissions across the cities. Results show that carbon emissions peak for most cities at a per capita GDP (in 2011 purchasing power parity) of around US$21,000 (80% confidence interval: US$19,000 to 22,000). Applying a Monte Carlo approach to simulate the peak of per capita emissions using a Kuznets function based on China’s historical emissions, we project that emissions for China should peak at 13–16 GtCO2 yr−1 between 2021 and 2025, approximately 5–10 yr ahead of the current Paris target of 2030. We show that the challenges faced by individual types of Chinese cities in realizing low-carbon development differ significantly depending on economic structure, urban form and geographical location.
Wang et al. is the cover article of this issue of Nature Sustainability.